Pasta col Nero di Seppia

February 28, 2014 / Food & Wine
Cefalù, Sicily

As you know Italian cooking is regional and seasonal, so no polenta down here and probably not much pasta con le sarde up around the Alps.


In this household I was told you only really need two friends in town. One is the butcher (only fresh, local meat) and the other is the fishmonger (no fish-farmed-dopey-eyed-stuff, only today’s pick from the sea, possibly fished just 300 yards off the coast). So, this is the time when the cuttlefish are swimming by.

Sircie, as they are known in dialect, are a popular dish prepared in a sauce for bucatini pasta, with or without il niuru, the ink bladders.


My mother-in-law served it, with the ink, the first time I was invited to meet the family. I guess she wanted to see how much I loved her son. I seriously thought I would have to sit there blindfolded, with a peg on my nose before I took the first bite. Even if it wasn’t love at first sight (the inky cuttlefish pasta, I mean), by the time I had got through it I was hooked – by the taste, the smell and even the sight of it. For someone who was brought up on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, it was a huge step towards cultural integration. The next visit was a cooking lesson to learn how to prepare it.

Since then it’s a regular dish on our family menu and easy to prepare. It is of prime importance that the fishmonger cleans the cuttlefish and separates the ink bladders so they can be diluted down in a glass of water. Never put them in the fridge without diluting them. They just solidify.


Chop some onion, sauté it in olive oil together with the cuttlefish. Add some ready-made tomato sauce (I use homemade tomato paste in the photo), the diluted ink bladders, a couple of bay leaves, some garlic cloves (no need to skin them) and as much peperoncino as you want. Cook for about 40 minutes on a low heat.

Alternative: Cook just the tentacles in the tomato/ink sauce and cut the fleshy part into strips, like calamari. Flour and deep fry them. Delicious!



by Marian Watson-Virga

Marian has lived in Sicily for longer than she can remember. British by birth, Sicilian by marriage she loves all things Sicilian, even pani ca’ meusa!   For the past few years she has been collaborating with Carmelina Ricciardello of, developing responsible tourism and discovering Sicily on walking and car tours. Marian’s blog page is here.

9 Responses to “Pasta col Nero di Seppia”

  1. Paul Russo

    My dad was born Cefalu and my mom in Balestrate . I visited Sicily many times, but I forgot about Sircie. Thanks for the info.

  2. Absolutely LOVE this dish! I first tried it in Venice, and had no idea it was a dish of the deep South! I rarely saw it when I lived in Campania.
    Forget the colour! Everyone should give it a try!
    Thank you for posting this! :)

  3. Vince (Enzo) Amato

    I was born and raised in Cefalu’ and I remember well the Pasta Col Nero di Seppie.
    Unfortunately I can not find the seppie here but I have the nero and I make it with moscardini. The best pasta on nero di seppie I had it in Lipari….

    • Lillo Glorioso

      I was born in Cefalu’ and moved to Central America at the age of 16. One of my best friends’ name is Enzo Amato. Although we were in touch for a while (by mail) , we ended up loosing contact. Now I live in the USA and have tried to contact my friend for several decades. Could this be you Enzo? Did you live across from “La Villa”? Please let me know.
      Un forte abbraccio.

  4. Michael Yaccino

    Visting friends in Cosenza, the nero di seppia got the best of all of us. Lots of laughs!…
    MIchael and friends in Cosenza eating nero di seppie pasta

  5. Marianne

    Enjoyed this dish at The Red Moon in Siracusa and at Giada in Palermo – delicious.


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